MELBOURNE, Fla. – Despite the record cold temperatures outside, the Saint Leo men’s basketball team held the hot hand as they traveled across the state and upended Florida Tech 70-63 in Sunshine State Conference action from the Clemente Center on Saturday afternoon.
It seemed as if the host Panthers were taking the Lions, who were winless in conference, for granted as SLU quickly jumped out to a five point advantage. After Florida Tech (10-4, 0-3 SSC) rebounded to take a slim, one point lead, Jeremy Jackson gave the Lions the lead for good by sinking a floater with 15:54 left in the first.
Surprising the 340-plus fans in attendance, Saint Leo (6-10, 1-3 SSC) would nearly dominate on all aspects of the game once they grabbed the lead, stretching it to as much as 13 points in the first half behind solid shooting, including a beautiful alley-oop from Josue Vazquez that was dunked home by Jackson to give SLU a 32-19 lead with 2:12 left in the half.
A small burst by the Panthers opening the second stanza cut the lead to six before the Lions regrouped to stretch the lead to 16 points halfway through the last period.
The Lions managed to keep the large advantage throughout the remainder, forcing Florida Tech to foul the Lions, hoping SLU would miss their free shots to give the hosts a chance to get back into the game. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Saint Leo would make the majority of their 15 free throws they would shoot in the final two minutes.
Led by Jackson, four Lions were in double figures with Daniel Oliver scoring 14 points and Dominick Robinson added 13 in the win. Jordan Prais also dropped in 10 points.
Justin Sedlack topped the Panthers’ scoring charts in the loss with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Saint Leo returns home for a big Sunshine State Conference matchup on Wednesday night. The Lions will square-off with Florida southern College in the Bowman Center with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m.